“I’m here to see Mona”. That’s how easy it is to get in to Mona Lounge, Cantonese restaurant-bar Sum Yi Tai‘s back-room cocktail joint, but are you ready to get tangled up in the complicated lives of the third wives? Well, at least you’ll have something interesting to talk about come Monday morning.
As the story goes, Mona is Thi lo’s third wife, and her lounge is where she warmly entertains her close personal friends. A comfortable and intimate space where you can imbibe dangerously and revel in jazzy Chinese tunes lies just behind the beaded red curtain. The opulent decor is a fitting tribute to the hedonistic era of 1980s Hong Kong – think plush leather seats, deep green walls contrasted with the pink lights and stunning chandeliers. The mahjong tiles on the table add a nice touch.
It’s not all style either. Delivering on substance is Head Bartender Byron Tan (previously of Smoke & Mirrors) and Group Chief Bartender is Sam Wong; the duo will tell stories of Mona through their intriguing concoctions. Each drink is a window into Mona’s past are are described with one-liners that teasingly hints at what to expect.
That First Bouquet ($22) takes you back to when Mona first fell in love. Easy to enjoy, the refreshing mixture of Enchanto pisco, thyme infused Aperol, hibiscus syrup, lime juice, grapefruit bitters, and sour plum powder does somehow capture that fresh, wide-eyed feeling of first love when everything is sweet yet tinged with slight bitter notes of anxiety.
Do classy with the elegant Lady’s Elixir ($22). Remy Martin VSOP is topped with monk fruit (better known as luo han guo) soda, this skinny cocktail with close to zero calories is the perfect accessory to look the sophisticated part.
On the other hand, Mona’s Tea ($22) is served an a dainty porcelain teacup, resembling regular pu-er. Complex and spirit-forward drink, this isn’t one for the lightweights. The sweetness from the cognac is perfectly balanced with the bitterness of the Fernet Branca and a touch of Oolong PX Sherry. Served with a single piece of salted egg chocolate made by Singapore’s craft chocolatier Fossa Chocolate; eat it before taking a sip for a stronger bitter flavour or after for the opposite effect.
Another interesting bittersweet concoction is based on everyone’s favourite cough remedy. Songstress ($22) adds an Asian twist to the classic old-fashioned by combining Bulleit Rye Whiskey and angostura bitters with pi pa gao for that menthol kick. The Longevity Highball ($20) is for the G&T lovers. Ginseng and chrysanthemum infused gin livens up the classic cocktail with lovely floral notes.
Chief Bartender Sam has outdone himself with the Dangerous Romance ($22). By far my favourite from the menu, this drink is a Mona Lounge tribute to two classic cocktails – the bloody Mary and the Margarita. The base of Espolon Blanco tequila is built upon with triple sec, honey, lemon juice and the star ingredient, tomato shrub. Made in-house with honey and vinegar, it adds a sense of intrigue while the bak kwa garnish is certainly a cherry on top.
While the cocktails take center stage, the Cantonese bar bites offered at Mona’s Lounge play lovely supporting roles. Sinfully delicious, The Crispy Pork Chips ($12) covered in shrimp paste and Chicken Skin Chips ($12) fried Szechuan style are impossible to resist. The dimly lit lounge means no one will see you polish them off in mere minutes. The Prawn Paste Chicken Wings ($10) are a safe choice while the Prawn Wanton tossed in chilli ($15) makes for a more substantial option.